Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. – Leviticus 19:2
Please can we read some more from Leviticus? Please can you preach another sermon on Leviticus? I just love that book, it’s so edifying. As a pastor I never hear this. Most people would just as soon skip over the book of Leviticus entirely. For those who have tried to read through the whole Bible, cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation…more often than not Leviticus is the burial ground in which those good intentions were laid to rest. In fact, the only time I hear talk of Leviticus is when there’s a good old fashioned church fight going on and people need Bible verses to club one another over the head with…those fights never end well…and it really is rather unfortunate that Leviticus is treated that way.
We don’t talk much about Leviticus. We do however talk a great deal about being Holy. It’s not out of the norm to do a sermon or a Bible study on being Holy…it is out of the norm to chat about Leviticus. But why? Leviticus is all about being Holy. That’s the whole theme of the Book…”You shall be holy” says the Lord to his chosen people.
Often times we designate all kinds of things as holy…there are places like God’s Holy House the church. You don’t run in there or wear your hat or speak loudly. There are objects like the Holy Bible. One doesn’t treat this book carelessly. There are even particularly significant times of the service, like Holy Communion. You’re supposed to be reverent during this time, not careless. We’re comfortable and even familiar with holy places, objects, and times. But there’s more. There are holy people. Now to be holy simply means to be set apart for special service.
That’s who we are. In our Baptism, one of those holy events, we are set apart…made holy, for the purpose of being set apart for special service. The book of Leviticus may look different, it may even look odd…but that’s the point. God made his people holy by passing them through the Red Sea (hmm…they passed through water and so do we…seems there’s a theme developing here). God made them holy by giving them the 10 Commandments. God made them holy by giving them the Tabernacle. So it only follows that if they are holy…set apart for a special purpose, then shouldn’t they look different from all those around them? Of course they should! And Leviticus is that holiness guidebook!
A pastor I greatly admire once wrote a book called The truth shall make you odd. This of course is a play on Jesus’ words you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Well, when you know the truth…when you’ve been set apart as holy then your life will look different…it will look downright odd. We read the book of Leviticus and see it as strange because it’s foreign to us…its not our way. “Why would they do that?” we wonder. Well, the Israelites were holy, and that means that they were called to a different form of life…one that looks odd.
Well, you my friend are holy. You aren’t holy because of your effort or because you’re a really neat person (though I’m sure that you are). You are holy because God has made you holy. And as holy people we are different…we are odd. People will in all likelyhood look at our life just like we might look at the book of Leviticus. Now that’s downright odd. “What do you mean you get up on Sunday morning and go to something called worship? Huh, you believe a dead Jewish carpenter is actually still alive and he is God? You forgive others and help those in need and pray for people? You’re odd!” That’s what people will in all likelihood have to say about you and your oddball ways…oddball ways that we would call being holy. So you have been made odd…er I mean holy. And being holy means that you live differently. So if people ask you what’s going on with you…just say that you’re odd…or holy.